Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 4, 2021

Botanical beauties and beasts

As we were about to return to Kansas after several weeks in husband Art's hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, his cousin Kris and husband Jim mentioned how much they enjoyed their recent visit to the Green Bay Botanical Garden. So we delayed our trip home to see for ourselves.

We chose the "scenic route," with Art navigating by the "seat of his pants." Traveling through the gently rolling farmland dotted with Holstein cattle, silos and red barns, I could feel myself relaxing. Even with an unexpected detour due to road work, the journey took only 40 minutes.

We grabbed some food at a drive-through and were in the garden's parking lot before the food cooled. We sat at a small shaded rustic wood picnic table in front of our car to enjoy our small repast. Yellow, red and white tulips provided a hint of what we'd see inside.

After finishing our food and doing a bit of people-watching in the lot, we entered, paid our "senior" fee, and walked out to a beautifully manicured lawn whose perimeter was chock full of tulips of nearly every color imaginable, including black. The pink and white flowering crab apple trees were gorgeous.

We wandered along the various winding paths, occasionally stopping to check out the names - T�te-�-t�te large cup daffodil, Stairway to Heaven Jacob's Ladder, Caramel coral bells, King�s Little Princess hosta, Dark Shadows hosta, and Dre's Dagger lady fern. Although the daylilies weren't yet in bloom, the names intrigued me: Love in the Library, A Little Pregnant, Earth and All Stars and Hawaiian Dancer. I couldn't help but smile when I found one named Twisting Toot Toot!

Art enjoyed a pond full of koi fish and little streams running here and there.

The garden was well-tended, yet parts of it, such as a quiet forested walkway and a secluded pond, were left a bit wild so it felt completely natural. We paused to watch a mother duck shepherd her flock of ducklings across the water while purple martins dove for bugs.

Benches, some of wood and some of metal - including one with its back fashioned into dragonfly shapes - provided shady spots for resting and reflecting. The Jenquine Pavilion was made of wood salvaged from an 1880s barn in Lena, Wisconsin. Chipmunks, robins and red winged blackbirds provided background music.

Other "animals" - Giacometti the River Otter, Flash the Marlin, Gertrude the Penguin, Chompers the Shark, Priscilla the Parrot Fish, and Stanley the Sturgeon - provided food for thought. What? Sharks, penguins and marlins in a Wisconsin botanical garden? Those large "beasts" were really sculptures made of trash found along the shores of the Pacific Ocean. From a distance, they were beautiful, but close up, they gave us a stark lesson on how human garbage affects the planet.

The sculptures are part of a traveling exhibit - "Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea" - a project that began in 2010. Human pollution of the world's oceans is a major threat to the countless species that call the Earth's waters home. Angela Haseltine Pozzi of the Washed Ashore project uses her combined expertise in education and art to raise awareness of this growing problem. The sculptures are all bigger-than-life and are made entirely of plastics and other materials she and her volunteers have found along the beaches of the West Coast.

Among items used to make Flash were four fishing lures, three fishing poles, toothbrushes, sunglasses, a toy fish and a toilet seat. Chompers was made of soda bottles, shotgun shells, a boogie board, flip flops, toy shovels and other "stuff." Priscilla's body included buoys, toys, a plastic corn on the cob, a bowling pin, and bottle caps. Stanley was created from a cell phone, fireworks, a bike pedal, a flashlight, and more.

That sort of pollution isn't just in the oceans; it's in the Great Lakes and in other lakes and rivers throughout the country. It's estimated that 22 million pounds of plastic go into the Great Lakes every year. And it's not like we can easily avoid it - it was in the drink cups and straws Art and I had used at lunch-time. It wraps our food and vegetables in grocery stores. And it is used to encase tools, electronic gadgets and other items we buy. It literally is everywhere!

The information boards located near each of the sculptures explained how individuals can help solve this problem: carry re-usable water bottles; use clothing made of cotton, wool or silk; buy bamboo toothbrushes rather than plastic ones; buy fresh fruit and veggies that aren't wrapped in plastic; compost if we have gardens; recycle what we can; and pick up after ourselves - and others!

Friend Bryce said on one of his recent flights from Alaska to Kansas, the food was served with vegetable-made utensils, and the tray and clear cover also could be composted. He was impressed. "The next generation will come up with even better ideas," he told me.

I hope so. The well-being of our planet's animals and plants depends on us all doing our part.

As we completed our circuit of the gardens, we came to an area with a nice stage and a green lawn inviting people to sit - no chigger problem there. Since nothing was being presented, there were few people about, but the magnolia trees were in bloom. A woman in an electric cart came by and asked if we wanted a ride back. We told her we�d make it on our own. It also gave us some time to reflect on what we had seen that day. The botanical garden, with its beautiful flowering plants and manicured lawns, reminded us of what we often see in England. And those man-made beauties effortlessly sent the message that we need to reckon with "beasts" of our own design. So it had proved to be a great decision to delay our return home!

Top-left: There were many benches where a visitor could sit among the flowers. Top-center: A carpet of red and white tulips with a flowering crab apple tree in the back. Center: An unusually colored tulip. Top-right: Magnolias on the garden's northern side. Bottom-left: Art enjoying the shelter made from hand-hewn lumber from a barn in northeast Wisconsin. Note the notched beams. Bottom-center: Flash the Marlin. Bottom-right: A closer inspection of the area near Flash's eye reveals the beach refuse used in his construction.

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